Over the last decade or so content has evolved from a piece of static written information to something more like a verb.
How we use it has changed, what we demand of it has changed, and certainly how it’s delivered and consumed has changed.
As information has become an increasingly important element in how we buy – what we are willing to give up in order to get it has changed as well.
And that’s what I want to address today.
Let me start with a brief history of how content and lead capture have evolved along somewhat parallel paths.
Content 1.0, if you will, was something along the lines of – hey, you found my website, sign my guest book. Seriously, people did this too. If you’re under 30 or so I imagine this seems really odd. “I’m going to give you my email address and I get nothing?”
Eventually, people demanded more and the ezine was born. Again, the under 30 reader may not recognize that term but that’s what people called what we now refer to as a newsletter sent via email.
As people started to realize the awesome marketing power contained in a large and responsive email list content 2.0 showed up.
Eventually, email spam and fatigue made consumers unwilling to give their email address over for free. They wanted useful information and that became the price.
You know the drill. You create a killer piece of content, maybe a checklist or an eBook, and offer it in exchange for a site visitor’s email address. As the “bait” approach became prevalent, markers started upping the bar a bit and including more aggressive content funnels as part of every product launch using things like landing pages, squeeze pages and pop over boxes all aimed at getting the email address as the primary objective.
While content 2.0 methods still work to a large degree, today I’m seeing a move towards what I believe will be the next important trend in content marketing.
This shift, and for consistency sake I’ll call it content 3.0, is a move toward what I would call “content communities.”
The idea behind a content community is that people don’t give you their email address to get a one-off piece of content, they determine that they want to join your community to gain access to an entire existing and future set of content that addresses their needs.
Now, there certainly are folks offering content by way of membership programs and courses, but I believe the move towards building and nurturing a content community as the price of admission will become the most powerful way to build both an email list and a community.
For a great example of this approach in action look no further than Copyblogger. Copyblogger has long pushed the edge of free content beyond where most are ready to go and Brian and team are leading the way in content 3.0 as well.
A content community play invites “members” to come in and consume an entire library of free content with the promise of new and updated forms of content as a perk of “membership.”
Obviously, this approaches means you must create lots of useful content in the form of ebooks, checklists or videos and you must make plans to add new content on a consistent basis.
The payoff, however, is that sign-ups for your community offer will far outstrip any one piece of bait offer and the member positioning invites an ongoing relationship mindset rather than a sales funnel mindset.
From a technology standpoint, you are simply creating a membership community where each member gets a login to access and return to the library. WordPress is made to handle this approach, as there are many membership plugins that allow you to sign up members and protect the community content as a “members only” perk. Copyblogger’s own Rainmaker platform has this functionality built right in.
You may even see fit to add a forum or private Facebook group for your members to interact, although this takes another level of engagement on your part to make it go.
Content will continue to mold a great deal of how marketing is done over the foreseeable future and smart marketers will continue to embrace and optimize the ever-changing role that content play.
Oh, and for those wondering – yes Duct Tape Marketing will embrace this concept in a few short weeks!